Last fall, Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo spoke on conscience and politics at Loyola College in Baltimore. In one key paragraph, he hits on the key difference in “proportional issues”:
Catholics in the political arena must recognize that opposition to intrinsic
evils, such as abortion, euthanasia, genocide, embryonic stem-cell research and
same sex unions is always required by the faithful Catholic. Because these
intrinsic evils are direct attacks on human life and marital dignity, they are
nonnegotiable for every Catholic. Catholics must recognize, too, that in the
other human life issues — such as immigration, capital punishment, the economy,
health-care and war — the dignity of the human person must first and foremost
be taken into consideration in seeking solutions to these questions.
That is the difference. Some issues involve intrinsic evils, which are always wrong. Other issues, such as immigratino, capital punishment, economics, health care and war, do not involve moral absolutes, but they do involve the dignity of the human person. In these cases, Catholics must always consider that dignity. But as long as that dignity is considered, there is room for a variety of opinions.
One might give the example of war. When many Catholics expected the Holy Father to condemn the war in Iraq when he visited the U.S., Pope Benedict instead praised soldiers for upholding human dignity by fighting for the freedom of others. I oppose socialized health care because I believe it is an affront to human dignity.
People are trying to say the same thing about abortion: that they are still looking out for “human dignity” even while they support legalized abortion because they support “prevention” and/or the “dignity” of the mother. The difference is that abortion is a moral absolute, while those other issues are *not* moral absolutes.